Ethereal Materials asks what “being there” might mean in the context of performance today. It is a research project on the ontological state of performance in an age of the digitalization of everything.
The four keywords in the project’s subtitle, “being and performance in virtual worlds,” function as starting points for a line of inquiry into this topic.
What constitutes a world in today’s digital context? What are its virtual capacities? What does it mean to perform in a virtual world? What does it mean “to be there” in a performance in a virtual world? What is the material status of being in performances in virtual worlds?
The project is led by Andrew Eglinton, a researcher in contemporary performance based in Kobe, Japan. The project will run for two years from February 2023 to February 2025, with a possible additional year depending on progress and requirements.
The scope of these questions is large. In order to keep some grasp on this topic, the project will be based on the following methodology:
- Yuriwaka. This is the practice-led strand of the project. It involves my translation into English of a 16th century text from the Japanese recitative dance form Kowakamai. The title of the text is 大臣 (Daijin), but the story is known by many names, not least Yuriwaka. I will adapt the translation into a mixed media immersive installation, which will have at its core, the problem of “being there”. The translated text and the adaptation notes will be housed here on this website.
- Field notes. This is the mapping strand of the project. It involves documenting performance practices in virtual worlds. These worlds may be entirely online, offline, or somewhere in between. The aim here is partly to locate the boundaries of the field, and partly to gain insight into what being in performance might mean for other artists. These notes will include descriptions of experienced worlds and reflections on some of the issues these worlds raise in relation to the project’s core questions. This website will house those notes.
- Critical texts. The third strand of this methodology is bibliographic. It involves the curation of an annotated bibliography of readings that intersect with the project themes. It will allow space for items that may seem radically opposed or totally heterogeneous to this topic. The reason for that, is that all corpuses play a game of hide and seek, revealing truths at the expense of covering others up. This project is mindful of positionality. Not only of its author, your servant here, but of the logic contained within texts as discursive formations, as well as the logic in the performance of the reading of those texts. Which coordinates make the map? Which don’t? This is not a problem I will be in any position to solve. But it is one I will try to keep in plain sight.
- Synthesis. The three strands will merge together in long-form critical writing. This will take essay form with a view to publication.
The outcomes of the project will include the mixed-media installation, Yuriwaka; the publication of at least one conference presentation; and following on from that, a journal article. These are the minimum expected outputs. Other opportunities may arise.
The project has been set up (initially) on a solo basis. However, any research is always based on the research and creations of others and always in the direction of others. I am very much interested in developing collaborations through this project, so if it is of interest to you or intersects with something you are doing, please do please get in touch and perhaps we can develop some synergy.